Posted in Family, Faith and Fitness

How dogs heal us…

One year ago, we packed up our classrooms, cubicles, or offices, went home and thought everything would be back to 2019 normal “in 2 weeks”. That was the magic number…2.  

T-W-O WEEKS

Then, like rabbits multiplying, so did the days we were home. Teachers propped up white boards for virtual lessons in their kitchens, backyards, or closets. Parents set up offices on counter tops and beds. Kids from Pre-K to College Seniors bellied up to borrowed, personal or work computers, phones, or tablets.

One of the most notable changes in our home happened when all sports came to a screeching halt. Much like the lone tree in a forest falling, there is a definitely a sound when kids can’t play their sports. In fact, it can get really loud with frustration or actually really quiet as they delve into device mode…tik-tok-ing away.

Being an active family, we knew creativity was key. For weeks, our boys played a combination of baseball and tennis, where one practiced serving and the other would “field” the ball.

Our daughter powered through a zillion Peleton workouts thanks to their free trial.

My husband and I ran outside and were pleased to see a new crop of people walking their dogs, running or riding bikes.

But the happiest hearts beating in our home were our dogs. They were our go-to’s —

When we needed to make a phone call and gripe about all of it, we’d walk and talk.

If we needed a slice of solitude, we’d leash up.

If the kids needed a parental break, off they’d go, dogs in tow.

Typically, if we weren’t walking the dogs, I’d find one of our kids snuggling with them, head resting on their belly or chatting quietly. The realization is — in this big COVID collision we’re living and breathing, here’s what we are missing:

CONNECTIONS.

Connections with friends. Connections with families. Connections with colleagues. Connections with the guy at Trader Joe’s who always remembers I’m a runner and asks how my latest run was.

Connections are crucial for our mental and emotional health. Unfortunately during COVID, the bonds we so desperately need slip away each day. However, there’s one furry friend who can be the savior in all of this desperation for love.

According to a Japanese study reported by Science, dog owners experienced a 300 percent increase in Oxycontin (the happy hormone) levels after interacting with their dogs and gazing into their eyes for only 30 minutes.

GAZING.

Gaze into those eyes for happiness

I have always found that once I can stare directly into my dog’s eyes, mutual trust is understood.

So I did some research and found that during that locked gaze is when the oxytocin flows. According to a study in Science Magazine, scientists noted there was no notable increase in the dogs and owners oxytocin levels who had spent minimal time looking into each other’s eyes.

Oxytocin is a hormone that plays a powerful part in the bonding, trust and altruism between a mother and her infant. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it is often called “the love hormone.” Like the Japanese study found with dogs, oxytocin is released at its greatest levels between a mother and baby when the two gaze into each other’s eyes.

Hill’spet.com

Domestication of dogs makes sense when you begin to follow their keen sense of interaction with owners.

“It’s not just the walks and the Frisbee catching; canines seem to understand us in a way that no other animal does. Point at an object, for example, and a dog will look at where you’re pointing—an intuitive reading of our intentions (“I’m trying to show you something”) that confounds our closest relatives: chimpanzees. People and dogs also look into each other’s eyes while interacting—a sign of understanding and affection that dogs’ closest relatives, wolves, interpret as hostility.”

Now that school is in session and our kids are virtual or face to face depending on the situation… the walking has waned, but the snuggling is on the rise every day.

On faith and fitness: Walk your dog or your neighbor’s dog…think about the word dog spelled backwards… 🙂

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